Sunday, November 30, 2008


Clockwise from upper left: (1) Spread Ash Mookee; (2) Black Stargard Zitterhal ; (3) Black MF Crested Helmet; (4) Red Bar German Beauty Homer.

A small blurb in a local newsweekly directs us to the Puyallup Fairgrounds. A need to be away from the house for an hour or so ensures that we go.

The child and I find ourselves parked inside the Orange Gate and entering the Restaurant Hall. We find ourselves in the midst of more than one hundred pigeon fanciers and seven hundred cages containing all types of pigeon varieties—Modenas, Homers, Rollers, Archangels, Dragoons, Tumblers, and Doves. We are spotted immediately and approached. It may be due to not wearing a coat identifying our particular pigeon club or chapter. It may be due to the naïveté of all things pigeon written upon our faces.

The pigeon fanciers are friendly and hospitable. We are given basic information about pigeons and turned loose to walk up and down the aisles of cages, admiring the beautiful birds within.

The cooing and soft calling of the pigeons is soothing. This is a peaceful escape from a world of economic turmoil and terrorism in Mumbai and political machinations. We can imagine ourselves pigeon fanciers for a short time.

We feather our nests and hunker down within for some time before we head back into the strangely warm weather of late November and return home.

(5) AOC Performing Roller.

(6) Cage after cage at the Northwest Winter Pigeon Classic.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Friday 28 November 2008, 4:59 p.m.

Friday 28 November 2008, 5:01 p.m.

The Stuck River Bridge in Sumner, thousands of Christmas lights, thousands of people of East Pierce County on the bridge deck, Santa Claus riding on an old pickup truck decorated in lights, Christmas music at the Old Cannery Warehouse, and more...

It seems to be an annual tradition for Troy's Work Table and the family now.




Friday, November 28, 2008


Thanksgiving Day found me at my grandfather's house for a few moments of quiet and reflection on this first Thanksgiving without him alive. I stood out amongst his Douglas fir trees, which are returning to their natural look since they haven't been pruned in at least two years. I walked around his house and his yard. I stood on his back porch and stared at the garden that has been reclaimed by the lawn and the surrounding wilds.

Then I saw them—ceramic ducks hanging on the side of his shed.

For whatever reason, my grandfather was fascinated by ducks of all stripes. He wasn't a hunter, but a fisherman, so I never understood his love of waterfowl. Perhaps he just liked their presence on the lakes he frequented. He never bothered to offer an explanation when asked, either. He would just laugh and quack and make a few silly faces when pressed for an answer. If the question was asked again then the response was the same.

So there we were: me, reminiscing about former times; four ceramic ducks, two of which were at one time identical, but are now both missing wings; and the ghost of my grandfather, walking through his beloved Christmas trees, quacking the punchline to the joke.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"The hotel rose overhead, a structure of plaster and dust, a few pieces of it torn away like an abandoned site. Strips of yellowing grass between parking lots. Above, the pinkish sky. Myers could be anywhere right now. Further proof of the great lack of imagination on the part of humanity: to look at the land and see the sameness that one sees in one's heart. No one should have to spend their life going through places like this."
—page 19, Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth

A man, Myers, discovers that his wife is following another man around after work and begins to follow her. The man is unaware that he is being followed. The wife is unaware that Myers is following her. Myers realizes he went to college with the followed man, Gray. Another woman is searching for her biological father upon the death of her mother. Their paths will cross, but none of them will really meet one another.

The characters of the story wander about without any real purpose. Well, Myer may have a reason for his wandering and his want of revenge, but even his wandering is somewhat aimless.

These characters are each on vacation, in different senses of the word. Some are on vacation from their marriages or other relationships; some are on vacation from work, properly or not; some are fleeing for their lives; some are fleeing from their lives.

The novel is an odd book in that the characters are extremely divorced from one another, their relationships with one another atomized, their emotions locked away and guarded. They don't even seem to really know themselves. All of this distance between them and from them (as a reader) makes it hard to really grasp who they are.

And yet we know exactly who they are because we have lived their lives, or at least portions of their empty lives of despair and angst in moments of our own lives. These moments of recognition are what have made the novel resonate for me for a number of weeks since completing it. I may not remember the characters, since I never really got to meet them, but I do remember how they made me feel.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Roasted Porter, a Porter by Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery

16 ounces on tap.

Roasted Porter arrives black with a thin tan head of half of a finger. There is also an aura of red, but it won't arrive until half of the pint is drained and a wee bit of light can penetrate the darkness.

It smells of roasted malts and chocolate covered espresso beans. It tastes of the woodsmoke of an alder campfire that is well-established, along with dark chocolate, coffee, and a hint of spices. It sits somewhat heavy on the tongue.

It is good, warming, dark, chocolaty, and smoky. I drink it as an accompaniment to my pizza, and, when I am finished, Roasted Porter leaves a sign of its once being present in the pint glass: a wonderful sheet of lacing.

This craft brewing detail is one of the reasons why I keep returning.


Roasted Porter is one of the Powerhouse's seasonal ales, known as Ezra Ales, named after the pioneer of Puyallup, Ezra Meeker. The ale board boasts that Roasted Porter is 1.067 original gravity, 6.4% alcohol by volume, and that "The name says it all."

Indeed it does.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The child and I need to escape the house, to stretch tired limbs and work sore muscles. We need to breathe in chill November wind and listen to the rustle of leaves. We need to be amongst songbirds and waterfowl. We head off to curb our wanderlust on the Milton Interurban Trail.

We experience the trail during the prescribed daylight.

The asphalt trail wanders through thickets of cottonwood and alder, through arsenic laced wetlands, next to avenues and streets and ways and I-5.

1/2 mile marker.

Farmland lies fallow for the winter, renewed by rainfall and rotting vegetable matter.

Traffic shoots by on the interstate, cars frantically heading off to shopping and soccer, diametrically opposed to our slow state of affairs—on foot, aimless, kicking rocks and listening to the croaking of frogs and the chatter of titmice.

Hundreds of Canada geese dazzle us with their aerial maneuvers, with their honking, with their less than graceful landings in the mud of freshly tilled fields.

The trees beckon us on our arrival and wave us away on our departure. They stand firm against the brisk wind, grabbing at clouds, snatching at the glimpses of sunshine that peek out infrequently.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Cask Conditioned Mirror Pond Pale Ale, a Pale Ale by Deschutes Brewery

10 ounces (half Imperial pint) on tap.

If I thought the on tap Fresh Hopped Mirror Pond Pale Ale was "excellent," then there is no word to describe on tap Cask Conditioned Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

This ale arrives with approximately one finger of white head upon a hazy orange body. The head sticks around for most of the life of the beer, leaving behind good lacing. Carbonation is lively.

The nose is apricot, apple, pear, orange. The main flavors are the same with a light floral background and the addition of hints of oak and bourbon. After its initial punch of bitterness, it sits thick in the mouth, which simply extends the enjoyment of the complexity and taste. This is, by far, the best of the Mirror Pond family members I've had the pleasure to meet. Outstanding.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The wife and I wandered through the streets of Old Town and the Pearl District of Portland until we arrived at one of the sources of some of my favorite beers: Deschutes Brewery & Public House, Portland edition.

I ordered a sampler tray of six beers of my choosing. I decided to enjoy some of the pub exclusive brews, seasonal beers, and variations rather than the core brews with which I was already familiar.

4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 27 Alcohol content: 4.5%

"This experimental golden ale was brewed using Munich and Victory specialty malts. The experiment behind this beer was in the hops. One kind of experimental hop was used to accentuate the flavor and aroma of the hop. Comments are much appreciated."

Hazy, buttery yellow in color. The aroma is strong of peach, pear, and citrus. The flavor is sweet and then mellows, consisting mostly of orange, with light pear, a hint of peach, and an undergirding of wheat. It's good.


4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 33 Alcohol content: 5.0%

"Keller is the German word for cellar. This beer is called this because it is unfiltered Pilsner like you would get straight from our cellar. The beer is made up of all German ingredients which include yeast, malt, and hops."

This was my least favorite of the bunch. I may have missed something, but I don't think so.

Clear yellow with a faint head. There is almost no aroma. Is that a hint of wet paper? Faintly perfumed damp paper? Straw? Hay? I don't know. There is a wee bit more flavor than aroma, but it is like licking the dust on the inside of a box of sweetened cereal. It is very light in the mouth and unobtrusive. It is on the verge of nonexistence.


4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 38 Alcohol content: 5.3%

"Our first fresh hop beer of the season made with Sterling hops from the Goschie farm near Mt. Angel, Oregon. This pale ale, made with light crystal malts and straight-from-the-vine Sterling hops, is very well balanced. Enjoy the excellent aroma and flavor of this crisp pale ale."

A slight head sits upon a yellow-orange body. The main aroma is a citrus and pear mixture, with peach trying to make an appearance. The main flavors are caramel, citrus and pear, and apricot. The mouthfeel tends toward thick and oily. This is good stuff.


4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 40 Alcohol content: 5.0%

"Our Head Brewer just couldn't get enough of the fresh hops this season, so he added freshly picked Cascade hops to our Mirror Pond Pale Ale, which is already brewed with copious amounts of Cascade hops, to give it the freshest aroma of the season."

Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a good pale ale in its own right. This fresh hopped version is even better.

Everything is orange. Orange is present in the color, the aroma, and the flavor. Additional aromas are of apricot and apple. Additional flavors are of apricot and malts. There is also a floral hint that tickles the tongue. This is thick in the mouth. Its thin head leaves behind a lot of lacing.


4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 38 Alcohol content: 5.5%

"Deschutes's brewers took the journey over to the Willamette Valley to pick an abundant amount of the freshest whole leaf Crystal hops straight from the vines of Doug Weather's farm. The return trip to Bend was greeted with a homecoming welcome as the hops were immediately added to the boiling brew kettle. The first brew started soon after a phone call was received from the Willamette Valley confirming the hops were loaded on the truck. Roughly 680 pounds of Crystal hops were added to each of the 120 barrel batches in addition to some dry kilned whole flower hops. All together, there are pounds of hops per barrel. A brisk hop flavor is created with a finish of soothing bitterness from the fresh hop oils."

This is excellent in the bottle and even more so from the tap.

A copper body supported a wee bit of white head that left behind excellent lacing. The aroma was light and refreshing—caramel, orange, nectarine. The same flavors were complemented by an undertone of vegetation that was reminiscent of the scent of newly flowering stinging nettles right after a brisk spring rain. Also, some light spiciness. Wonderful.


4 ounce taster, on tap.
IBUs: 23 Alcohol content: 5.3%

"This year's version of PDX Deschutes Brewery's Oktoberfest utilizes German Pilsner and Munich malts, as well as German Northern Brewer and German Hallertau hops. This easy drinking lager will go well with most German fare. Prost!"

Octoberfest was orange with a yellow tinge. It smelled leafy and of caramel. The flavors were not exactly what I was expecting—earthiness, caramel, candy necklace, and a hint of varnish. It was sweeter than anticipated. It was okay, but I think there are better Oktoberfest beers.


This was a great "six pack" of beers. The best of the bunch were definitely Goschie's, Fresh Hopped Mirror Pond, and Hop Trip. And they were best enjoyed in that order, each building upon the foundation laid by its predecessor.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"You can blend serious literature reading and insert a musical interlude and then feature a quiz show that is silly and full of fun and trivial humor and give the audience that sense of rhythm that they need to pay attention for sixty minutes. It’s part of what makes us so fresh and original. Nobody is doing what we’re doing.”
—Jay Bates, founder and master of ceremonies of A River & Sound Review

Show#23. LIVE.

Wednesday 19 November 2008. 7:00 p.m.

Scandinavian Cultural Center, Pacific Lutheran University.

student writers: Jacob Harksen and Paikai.
alumni writers: Kolby Harvey and Corinne Holmberg.
musical guest: Alex Smith.

The evening also includes
"game show" Name That Book
and our newest tradition
the Four Minute Poetry Project.

Free admission. (Donations are always accepted.)

Cosponsored by PLU literary magazine Saxifrage.

Friday, November 14, 2008


The brain likes to have everything placed neatly back within containers, for debris to be cleaned up, for edges and limits to be well defined again. Yet the temptation is to jump into the pile of leaves, regardless of what monsters it may contain.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The river is mostly contained within her banks again, but still swift and deadly, filled with debris of branches and bushes and tree trunks, lapping lightly at fences and sandbags. The sky is peppered with soft clouds. The birds are chirping their autumnal songs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


People are ignoring the signs and walking the trail. They forget that the Puyallup is a fickle beast. She often appears calm right before she strikes.

Puyallup Fire & Rescue parks their Paramedic Unit in front of our house, followed by a Ladder Truck and the Special Operations Unit. A Puyallup police officer also arrives on scene, along with one of Puyallup Fire & Rescue's chiefs.

A man is in the clutches of the Puyallup River, clinging to a branch jutting from the riverbank. He is rescued, pulled from the water. He is wheeled away on a gurney.

Everyone gathers up their tools and sheds their gear and drives off to deal with others enticed by the roiling black waters.


The attached sign reads RIVERWALK TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO IMPENDING FLOODING. It is no longer impending. Parts of the trail are submerged and the Puyallup River is churning. Once again we have riverfront property.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Powell's City of Books is one of those places that I could easily become lost within. That is partly due to being directionally challenged and partly due to actually wanting to become lost forever in its aisles. Although I think I have finally convinced myself that I wouldn't really want to work there. After sixteen years in the book retail industry, Powell's seems as though it would the ultimate bookseller dream job, short of owning my own store. But then I started watching the customers and realized that a lot of them are obnoxious, snotty, self-absorbed assholes. Yes, most of them are not. Most of them are civilized and polite and thankful. Most of them are excited to find the book they have been seeking or stumbling upon an author or title new to them. But I am getting too old to return to any type of job where I would have to placate the bullies of life who expect to get what they want when they want it, which is right now!

The wife and I split up to wander the three floors and nine rooms of Powell's, each at his or her leisure. I spent a lot of time in the Blue Room—literature and poetry. I left with a used copy of Jorge Luis Borges's Selected Poems that was in perfect condition. I also spent quite a bit of time in the Pearl Room looking through books of art, architecture, typography, and design, as well as viewing the photographs of Elliott Erwitt on display in Powell's Basil Hallward Art Gallery.

After the wife and I had our fixes (okay, it was mostly me; yes, I'm the addict here), we wandered off into the dark and cold of the November Portland night for dinner and beer...